Movie Musical Review: “Tick, Tick… Boom!”

Photo Courtesy: Pexels by Tima Miroshnichenko

On Nov. 19 the movie musical “Tick, Tick… Boom!” was released on Netflix. For those who don’t know, “Tick, Tick… Boom!” is Jonathan Larson’s (the creator of the Broadway smash-hit, “Rent”) other musical. More basic information about the movie is available in this article written prior to the movie’s release. If you have not watched it, I implore you to go do so right now. This is your spoiler warning, as my review covers plot developments.

Oftentimes when transferring works from stage to set there are some road bumps. Lin Manuel Miranda, the director, is no stranger to the movie musical world. He used his on-set experience from “In the Heights” to avoid the common errors made in musical projects such as these. Instead of throwing random songs into the movie, Miranda made sure all of the music complemented the plot. He masterfully reworked parts of the musical to make them work better on-screen, while still upholding Larson’s distinct sound. Miranda added the cut stage songs “Swimming,” “Boho Days” and “Play Game,” which he found in the Library of Congress archives. With these additions, we realize that Larson still has so much to give the world. Even though he’s gone, his art lives on.

Andrew Garfield. Must I say more? This acting performance may be one of the best of his career. He played Larson well, even capturing the hand and facial movements that Larson made while performing. If you want to see a side-by-side performance, one was posted on YouTube. Garfield’s dedication to the role is exceptional. He understood the great importance of this film and the weight on his shoulders to execute the role properly. Not only this, but he can sing incredibly well. I was floored. Who knew Spider-Man could sing? I will be shocked if he does not win an award for his work in this film.

There is one thing about this movie that I would be remiss not to discuss; the cameos. In movie musicals, I, like many others, hope for cameos. It means more of the Broadway community is given the on-screen recognition they deserve. Miranda’s directing did not leave us wanting. There were over 30 Broadway cameos and not just actors, but directors, composers, and writers. We had Stephen Schwartz (creator of “Wicked”), Tom Kitt (award-winning composer, conductor, and orchestrator), three original “Rent” actors, and even the Broadway legend, Bernadette Peters. It was inspiring to see so many beloved members of the theater community coming together to celebrate Larson.

Larson’s brilliant work sets an insanely high bar for all that follows. I commend anyone for attempting to do one of his shows. That being said, I’ll do much more than commend Miranda. I’ll praise him. This was one hell of a directorial debut. Miranda chose to direct this like a creative documentary of Larson’s life. He switches between home video-style clips — fuzzy with larger black borders — and normal film. There’s a narrator to start the film and to end the film, speaking of Larson’s life and what happened after he passed away. It was masterfully pieced together. 

There are so many elements to this film, between flashbacks and present-day, dialogue and music. Despite this, Miranda made the plot flow seamlessly and cohesively. Which in itself is a difficult thing to do; even non-musical movies can struggle to masterfully weave together complex plots. Especially during the song “Come to Your Senses.” Two featured plotlines are seamlessly interwoven. We finally hear Jon’s song, which was the product of the entire film’s toil. It was an uplifting and special moment. But we also see him end his relationship with Susan, which was raw and painful. The music provides a connecting piece between the two stories, allowing for something highly emotional and pure to flow. After this film, I am convinced Miranda can do it all.

This movie did Larson justice; it was beautiful and emotional. You left the film feeling as though you saw his very essence. It came across as an homage to Larson rather than a dramatization or cash grab movie musical like many before it has. I firmly believe that Larson would have liked this film. It seemed like everything he tried to say with the little amount of time he was given, finally laid out for all to see. It felt chaotic in the best way possible, but most importantly, it felt like Larson.